Brighter Days: 3 Tips for Recovering from the Birth
Now that your baby is born, we wish we could wave a magic wand and change you back to your pre-pregnancy self. It took your body nine months to get to this point, but the good news is it won't take you another nine months to get your body back. Women are incredibly resilient.
After your baby is born, your uterus shrinks immediately from the size of a watermelon to the size of a volleyball. This causes the placenta to detach from the uterine wall and be delivered.
Also, after your baby is born, your hormone levels quickly change. You might feel hot and cold flashes. Your breasts and nipples are sore and tender for a few days.
It might be painful to sit or walk for a few days if your perineum was torn during birth or if you had an episiotomy. Coughing or sneezing might hurt, too. This should heal in a few days. Sitting on an ice pack for short periods of time can help.
For a few days after your baby is born, you might feel contractions called after-birth pains, which bring your uterus down to size. You'll notice them most when your baby nurses (if you're breastfeeding).
You'll likely notice a dramatic increase in vaginal discharge after your baby is born. It will begin as bleeding that's heavier than a usual period. It might contain clots of blood. Then it will taper off and fade to white and yellow discharge, and it stops within two months.
When you try to have a bowel movement for the first time after having your baby, it might be painful. Constipation, hemorrhoids and sore muscles are very common.
Up to 80% of new moms experience the baby blues. They feel irritable, sad or anxious, and they can cry at the drop of a hat. This can start within days or weeks after the baby is born. More serious than the baby blues, 10 to 25% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression. It can cause anxiety, mood swings, guilt and sadness. If your mood is consistently low, you find little joy in life or you have trouble summoning the energy to start a new day, seek help promptly.
Having a cesarean section brings the added challenge of recovery from surgery. While you're in the hospital, your incision will be monitored for signs of infection. The nurses will also monitor your appetite, how much fluid you're drinking and your bladder and bowel function.
Here's what our Mommy M.D.s -- doctors who are also mothers -- do to recover from their own births.
"For me, recovering from a C-section wasn't a big deal," says Jennifer Gilbert, D.O., a mom of twins and OB-GYN at Paoli Hospital in Pennsylvania. "In about a week, I felt fine. I think that you're 90% better in a week, and then it takes about four to six weeks before you feel completely back to your normal self. But the challenge is that, at the time, you're taking care of a newborn, you're not sleeping and you're exhausted, so it takes longer than it normally would to get completely back to yourself."
"After my baby was born, I woke in the middle of the night with night sweats," says Erika Schwartz, M.D., a mom of two and the director of Evolved Science medical practice, who's been in private practice for more than 30 years in New York City specializing in women's health, disease prevention and bioidentical hormones. "I was terrified! But night sweats after having a baby are normal. They're caused by hormone changes, similar to menopause. Your hormones are dropping very significantly and rapidly."
"I delivered my third baby at the hospital where I had worked for several years," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky. "The day after my delivery, I took a stroll down the hall of the labor and delivery floor to get a little exercise. I was feeling slimmer and lighter on my feet than I had in months! I was greeted by one of my physician colleagues who I hadn't seen in a few weeks. He didn't know I was visiting the OB floor as a patient.
"'When are you going to have that baby?' he asked, pointing at my belly.
"I was crushed," McAllister adds. "It's important to remember that after the birth of your baby, it's highly unlikely that you'll walk out of the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans. It takes a while for all the fluid you accumulated to dissipate and for the swelling to go away. Be patient with yourself!"
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, founding CEO of woman- and veteran-owned custom publisher Bright Communications LLC, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years" and six other books in the Mommy MD Guides series. She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.